Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: The Temper Trap at Melkweg

Meeting at 8.30 I thought would give us plenty of time to see the start of Silversun Pickup's Australian support The Temper Trap however when we got there they'd already started.
A great band who've made their mark on the Australian indie scene already and are now sifting through the shit of cracking the UK and Europe, The Temper Trap can create a rather large sonic boom given the chance. However being the support act I couldn't help but feel Silversun Pickup's sound guy had turned them down a wee bit, especially once Brian Aubert's guitars began to wail… But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Thankfully, as it turned out, we still caught the majority of their set, a set that was filled with lots of new material and slight directional change since we last saw them.

The essence of their original sound still remains, from Dougy's falcetto to Lorenzo's guitar noodling, the chugging bass and jagged dancing of Toby and Jonathon's solid drumming backbone but an additional keyboardist/guitarist adds the expansive sonic breadth that no doubt came from time in the studio with Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, UNKLE). That time produced debut album Conditions, released this week in Australia but won't be out in Europe or the UK until August.
Beyond the jagged post punk indie they began at, their journey has taken them into a much more layered territory, when experimental cues of Tv on The Radio or Mogwai, when commercial - Bloc Party or early U2 - but you get the picture. They're aiming for a big sound, but let's not call it 'stadium' just yet. Speaking to Lorenzo after the show he said it was moving 'maybe a bit dancy'. Not a rock guitarist's favourite realisation. However, on lead single, 'Sweet Disposition' you hear Lorenzo invoking hook-God, Edge's echoing guitar work that brings about that big sound. 'Down River' sounds like a Dappled Cities tune while 'Fader', that live draws a sing-a-long and handclap over heads, is pure pop.
Possibly playing their album right through, celebrating the fact it went on sale in Australia early that day, both show and record build moment towards the end. 'Resurrection' rises from Dougy's ethereal falsetto into a balls-out wall of sound, all instruments forming the barricade while 'Science of Fear' comes out with the melodic live dance of New Order. Last track of the album (unless you score bonus track 'Hearts') is Instrumental 'Drum Song'. It's one of the few I recall from their early live shows. Beginning aptly with a concussive percussion by Jonathon and Dougy on an extra floor tom, echoey Gang Of Four-like guitar chimes in before long it's a thundering maelstrom.
The crowd, here to see Silversun Pickups seem suitably blown away. After the show, Girlfriend Liz overhears a local say to his friend that Brian Aubert (Green?) and co. better watch out or they'll be opening for Temper Trap next time 'round. My friend Aris thought they were, as usual 'bloody amazing'.

Temper Trap mySpace

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Review: Dan Deacon live at Paradiso

PhotobucketAnd what a master stroke it was to let the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart lead off, lulling the crowd into a false sense of security, in harmonies and melodies before Dan Deacon takes the helm and tears everyone new eardrums.
DIY in his set up (pink gaffer tape, a green skull-strobe, an epileptic traffic light and some keyboards on a table) and hilarious in his introduction, Dan Deacon is all about crowd participation. Set off the stage and on the floor in an inclusive manner, he makes requests of his audience, not demands. Before the music gets going he sets the mood with a lesson in crowd participation that sees almost all the audience squat on the floor before, with a raised arm and pointed finger embarrassing those too cool to do as he asks. And then he begins. Like a schizophonic ringtone version of Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod", Deacon's music is intense yet playful, serious yet pisstake, ear piercing and bowel trembling - if there is a funky smell in the hall, it's 'cos he found people's brown notes. He wails into the microphone as effects distorts his voice so he's speaking in tongues. His arm raised to the skies, he is a man possessed like, if you'll pardon it, a fallen deacon. Crowd surfers and moshers rage in the old church, almost falling on his desk as he nearly loses the skull-strobe.

Intermittently, when the crowd needs a break from the intensity, he plays games. Whether it's everyone with their hands on their neighbours heads, or dance offs with the lights on, Deacon keeps it interesting. The most amazing however comes when he pushes everyone to one side of the hall. To an infectious yet repetitive beat, like a sped-up version of the congo-line song he takes two 'volunteers' to form an arc with their arms before another couple move through the arc to form the beginnings of a tunnel. Nearly the entire audience play along and the tunnel worms from his DJ desk out the doors of the main hall, into the foyer, on to the street, around the building, up the wheelchair ramp and back into the hall finishing at the DJ desk. Ridiculous yet amazing.

So amazing is it, we bother not to risk being disappointed by seeing Hatchem Social play in the small hall, and call it a night 'cos Dan Fuckin' Deacon throws parties harder than Kenny Fuckin' Powers throws a fastball.

Review: Pains of Being Pure At Heart live at Paradiso

A little treasure is The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's debut album. They're indie-pop New Yorkers who sway from moments of My Bloody Valentine to the early upbeat riffing of Ash or Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins. Both catchy and naively sexy - kinda like mono - it makes you pine for your youth, especially if you grew up listening to Siamese Dream or Brisbane's Screamfeeder boy-girl harmonies. And if they didn't spell it out with their name, tracks like "Young Adult Friction", "A Teenager in Love" and "This Love is Fucking Right" make it pretty obvious this young band are wearing their indie-hearts on their sleeves, captured it in three-chord pop and harmonies.

But if you grew up listening to Screamfeeder you'll recall both Tim and Kelly had decent voices. These days you can do a lot in the studio with vocal layering but live you're on your own. And with the Internet sweeping kids too quickly from the garage to the main hall of Amsterdam's Paradiso, they haven't a lot of time to refine their chops - let alone let them stew. Accepting success before maturity is just one of the Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Singer Kip Berman (aka Jason Biggs) lacks the vocal umph on stage, crackling on notes as if his 'taco fell in the fryer'. Likewise keyboardist/singer Peggy Wang's voice can't seem to sing through with her Joey Ramone bangs. It's almost charming in that shy teen thing they go for, but a bum note stinks.
Musically though I really enjoy it. I can't stop my left leg from doing that cool, one legged wobble while right leg stays strong. And if my arm isn't around my baby, then as I've seen the kids do, my right hand is on left elbow in front of torso, lost in the moment, head slightly tilted with a sympathetic nod to their pains... and voices.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Gringo Star

Gringo Star "All Y'all" from on Vimeo.

But for their terrible name (and to think they were formerly called A Fir-Ju Well) I knew very little of Gringo Star.
Live, their first song is not promising, to my virgin ears it hints of dull Oasis three chord ballads. I lean over to Steven and say 'don't hang around on my account - if you need to catch your train to Almere that's fine.'

But he sticks it out for a few more songs and I'm thankful I stick around with him. A quick shuffle of instruments introduce organs that give a distinct wandering garage-blues feel like the Animals or to the younger kids, fellow Atlanta locals The Black Lips. Jangly and loose they swaggered through retro-infused rock. At times jaunty and upbeat as on 'All Y'all' with hand claps and staggered riffing or 'Don't Go', a piano-ladden knees-up. At other times slow and contemplative with tinges of lonesome cowboy on 'Transmission' and 'All Day Long'. The constant re-shuffle of instruments sees plenty of rattling tamborines, and reverberating kazoo enter the routine and vocal turn-taking by all four members keeps the live set-list interesting.

Prompted by a darn fun, leg shaking gig and the fact I didn't pay to get into the Paradiso I feel obliged to pick up the album. Helmed by Ben H. Allen who has produced for the likes of Animal Collective, MGMT and Gnarls Barkley and released on their own label, All Y'all resurrects that crackling vintage sound perfectly. If you can't buy it off the merchdesk from chaps themselves at a gig near you, All Y'all is on iTunes and I recommend buying it.

Preview: Yo La Tengo

In March of 2009 covers band Condo Fucks released the record Fuckbook - a collection of skuzzy, stonkin' garage tunes from the likes of The Troggs, The Kinks, Slade and Richard Hell. They executed it with pin-point accuracy for sound and atmosphere of the era. Yo La Tengo fans, will know the Condo Fucks are just a wise-ass side project thingy for the Hoboken, New Jersey trio that have been around for 25 years or so. Fuckbook has been the fans only respite since 06's I Am Not Afraid And I Will Beat Your Ass, an exceptional album that made numerous music media's top albums list. They did however record the score to Adventureland... I guess that counts.

Popular Songs
However good news folks. A leaked song "Periodically Double or Triple", a slinky little ditty that sounds like a Meters or Booker T tune, precedes the just announced new album, Popular Songs to be expected September 8. By all accounts it's quite diverse, as you'd expect from YLT – more at Matador Records HQ.

Bimhuis and fine wine
If all goes to plan I will be interviewing them (daunting? Yes. Awesome? Also) when they stop in to Amsterdam to play the Bimhuis. An odd destination for an indie band but obviously Yo La Tengo aren't just an indie band. Improv is a great part in the performance of bassplayer/organ player James McNew, guitar player Ira Kaplan and drummer (and Kaplan's wife) Georgia Hubley. Their show at the Bimhuis will see an intimate, mostly acoustic reworking of original songs from their 25-year history and maybe a few cheeky samples from Popular Songs. As music website Pitchforkmedia said. 'Fine wines wish they could age as well as Yo La Tengo'.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: Bad Wives meaning Good Wives

PhotobucketThe Ladies of Bad Wives have been hard at it like Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses. They're DJing all over the shop.
In fact they are probably knocking back straight fingers of gin as I type in preparation for their set supporting the much hyped N.A.S.A at Sydney's Oxford Arts Factory. What other gigs do they have coming up? Shit man, tomorrow it's Kit n Kaboodle, then on Thursday 11 June it's Go Font Yourself at the Peer Gallery, followed later in the night back at the Oxford Arts Factory before playing FBi's all important fundraiser at Luna Park - will Richard Branson be there? You'll have to go and find out.

In the interim you should really down load Bad Wives mega amazing mixtape two. Mixtape 1 was good but to quote the kids, mixtape two is ill. And at the news that a third 'slow jamz' mix is in the works – Ladies, if you're reading this - do a fanboy a favour and drop Janet and Missy's 'Son of a Gun'. Tune.

Review: Bell Orchestre at the Paradiso

I went to see the lovely Bell Orchestre at Paradiso last night - below the video to 'throw it in the fire' is my review.

'We make art music, we're instrumental,' double bass player for Bell Orchestre, Richard Parry announces on their last song of the night with quotation fingers and mock-denial to the crowd who opt for a rock song over a love song, a choice put forward by violinist Sarah Neufeld.

For Parry and Neufeld, Bell Orchestre plays second fiddle to their busier, bigger band, Arcade Fire. However with Bell Orchestre, signed to Canada's flagship indie label Arts & Crafts, accompanied by fellow members Pietro Amato (French horn), Kaveh Nabatian (trumpet), Stefan Schneider (drums) and Mike Feuerstack (lap steel guitar) they incorporate the chamber pop elements of Arcade Fire while going beyond. Avant garde folk and jazz, moments of dub, el mariachi horns and yes, rock all get a look in to As Seen Through Windows their album released in march.

Live, admittedly at first I thought it would to be rough going. Their first song, a scattered collection of horns and strings. But as they settle in, or as I do, the experimentation with off-timings and shrill notes feel more cohesive, as grooves slide their way in and a momentum builds.
Possibly an 'art' outlet or a breeding ground for ideas, they swing from sweeping strings delicate, to the elephant-triumphant blows of the french horn and bass saxophone, onwards to shaking staccato rhythms. Parry's pulsing double bass pulls sounds from his quiver beyond his bow with drumsticks on strings, hand-drumming on the body, effects pedals building on Schneider's flexible percussive backbone. On top of the violins and brass, once they get going melodicas, keyboards and tricky overdubs all lend themselves to the cacophonic brink of the indie-orchestra before bringing it back down to simple 'oohs and aahs' of a distant choral group. It's the closest we got to actual singing - but it isn't missed.

The band themselves are upbeat. Not only were they on the last gig of their European tour but also extremely relieved to see more than one person in the Paradiso's kliene zaal – as was the case last time they played here. Instead it was 3/4 full and all very appreciative – and no doubt more next time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lucky Dragons at Subbacultcha

Lucky Dragons at Subbacultcha
More recently we've had ol' Rhys Jones and his brother Gareth stay with us. We went to the Subbacultcha magazine party at De Nieuwe Anita to see LA-based Lucky Dragons supported by locals The Wolf, Death and the Acorn who carried a hypnotising, reverberating rhythm, from folky elements to build a sound, at times, similar to Animal Collective and will definitely be worth keeping an eye out for in the future around town.
At first duo Lucky Dragons, crouched over a computer, some bongos and a mess of cords were a shitty noise of loops and self indulgence that didn't know the crap they were making in their bedroom would not actually translate to a live audience.
That's until they began getting the audience involved. On one side punters were invited to wave rocks over geiger counter-looking device while on the other side kneeling audience members were given various rods covered in material that emitted and/or prevented noise outputs to hold hands, covered hands, waved finger tips, all varying pitch and tone. All of a sudden Lucky Dragons weren't making self-indulgent art wank, but community-based soundscaping, literally bridging the gap between musician and audience to build one mass, sonic orgy experiment that Benjamin Franklin, Aphex Twin and Alfred Kinsey could appreciate, okay not so much Kinsey. The video above will explain more.